When I’m not in class or at the apartment, I’m usually at cafés here in Beirut, studying and working. Cousin Stephen introduced me to this great place, right around the corner from the apartment called Café Younes, and it’s quickly becoming my regular spot.
The coffee is delicious and an iced latte or a frozen lemonade with mint on a hot summer day is all I need to keep me happy! The café was started in 1935 by a man named Amin Younes, who had been living in abroad in Brazil, working on coffee plantations. When Younes came back to Beirut, he opened the café and hired the now legendary, then 16-year old, Abou Anwar, to roast the coffee beans. Apparently Younes and Anwar’s coffee roaster was the first in downtown Beirut. Awesome. Plus, they mixed beans imported from Brazil, Yemen and Ethiopia to create a unique blend, which they then used to make traditional Arabic coffee.
The original café was destroyed in 1975, during the Lebanese Civil War. But Younes rebuilt. And now, the café has expanded to four locations around Beirut, with a whole variety of custom coffee blends, Abou Anwar is still in charge of roasting, and Amin Younes, the grandson of the founder, Amin Younes, now runs the business. There’s free wireless and a huge mix of people – the place is only open until 11pm, but it’s packed until then. I love it!!
Coffee culture here in Lebanon, and throughout the Arab world for that matter, is huge. Apparently, it’s even said that a Lebanese who doesn’t love coffee, isn’t really Lebanese. 😉 So I guess that means that, at least in this respect, I’m definitely Lebanese!To make traditional Arabic coffee, you take finely ground coffee beans and boil them for a while in special coffeepots – either a dallah or an ibrik. It’s then served in small, espresso-sized cups. Mmmm boy! Very strong, very thick, very good. When you’ve finished your coffee there are always coffee grounds left sitting on the bottom of your cup. Growing up, some of my aunts used to read my fortune, by examining the patterns made by the remaining coffee grounds – “…hmmm…i see you, thin, not like you are now…and with a husband. So, habibti, lose weight and you’ll get married!” oh, the memories…